Is This the End for Ubuntu Touch?

Christian Cawley 21-04-2017

Following its release in 2016, the Ubuntu Touch platform (often referred to as “Ubuntu Phone”) hasn’t exactly set the world alight. But it hasn’t been a complete disappointment, either. I took a Meizu device on holiday and spent the day with it at Legoland Resort, Windsor to extremely favorable results.


But in 2017, short of a security update, Ubuntu Touch vanished. News from Canonical in early April revealed that the end was nigh. No new devices are coming your way — Ubuntu Phone is joining Unity on the scrapheap. Investment has ended.

meizu ubuntu home

This is a dead OS.

There will be no new version, no updates, no improvements to their Microsoft Continuum-beating Convergence system How to Turn Ubuntu Phone Into a Desktop PC With Convergence Newcomer to the mobile space, Ubuntu Phone, has its own mobile-to-desktop software. If your device is compatible, and running the OTA-11 update (or later), you can turn your phone into a PC. Read More . Ubuntu Touch is going the way of webOS and other loved-but-ignored touch operating systems.

But what if you have an Ubuntu Touch? What can you do to keep using your phone safely?


The Canonical Announcement

On April 5th, 2017, Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu, announced that the OS would be changing its focus. The result of this is the end of the Unity desktop What Switching Back to GNOME Means for Ubuntu Canonical has announced the end of the Unity desktop. From Ubuntu 18.04, the GNOME desktop will be restored. What does this mean for Ubuntu, and its relationship with Linux users? Read More  and the Ubuntu Touch mobile project.

“…we will end our investment in Unity8, the phone and convergence shell… our efforts were seen [as] fragmentation not innovation. And industry has not rallied to the possibility, instead taking a ‘better the devil you know’ approach to those form factors, or investing in home-grown platforms.”

To continue to attract investment, Canonical is basically shutting down the departments that aren’t making money. Ubuntu Touch hasn’t caught the attention of mobile manufacturers in the way Canonical had hoped, but cloud and internet of Things technology are growth areas, so efforts are being refocused there.

Are You Using an Ubuntu Touch Phone or Tablet?

You might have bought a handset, or you might have downloaded and installed Ubuntu. In short, there are two ways you could be using it.

Ubuntu Touch Handsets

BQ and Meizu have released several dedicated Ubuntu Touch handsets:


ubuntu touch device

Most of these handsets were also available with Android installed. The hardware for both appears to be identical, as Ubuntu smartphones and tablets could be flashed with Android and vice versa.

Devices That Run Ubuntu Touch

Official ports of Ubuntu Touch are also available:

If you’re using any of these phones and you’re concerned about keeping your phone and data secure, the lack of future updates might well be prompting you to ask: what’s the alternative?


Ignore Google Android: Look for Open Source Android

Google Android is not open source. Although using the Linux kernel, Android features many proprietary technologies. If you’re looking for an open source alternative to Ubuntu Phone, Google Android is not it.

However, AOSP might be what you’re looking for. The Android Open Source Project is, if you like, “pure” Android, without the Google apps built in and a few other differences. If your affection for Ubuntu Touch was in some way encouraged by a dislike for Google, there are several AOSP-powered ROMs.

Options such as AOKP (Android Open Kang Project), ColorOS, Replicant, and Cyanogen (and its fork Lineage) might be the projects you switch to. Alternatively, if you’re using an Ubuntu Touch device from Meizu, their iOS-inspired Flyme OS is available.

You can typically find these third-party ROMs at Just search for your handset and see what is available. Instructions are usually provided.


Other Linux-Based Mobile Platforms

Could there be another mobile platform compatible with your now defunct Ubuntu Phone?

While Canonical may have decided to abandon Ubuntu, there are other operating systems that you may be able to try out. One of the options is Plasma Mobile, an attractive mobile version of the popular Plasma desktop environment.

Plasma Mobile is currently available for OnePlus One and Nexus 5 (2013) devices, although there is also a 64-bit image available for Intel-based touchscreen devices.

Meanwhile, you might also take a look at Sailfish OS, which is also based on Linux (and has notable ancestors in the defunct MeeGo, Maemo, and Moblin mobile operating systems). Support for various devices is provided by the core developers and the wider community.

Whether these alternatives will run on your handset, however, will depend on the OS and its compatibility.

Sticking With Ubuntu Touch? Do This One Thing

None of what is discussed so far addresses what is perhaps the most important point: Canonical might have abandoned Ubuntu Touch, but what if you’re happy with it?

While it’s unlikely that your Ubuntu phone or tablet is likely to be susceptible to any mobile malware, it remains important that you install the latest update. The OTA 15 update is a security fix, one that should toughen up the Ubuntu Touch operating system and allow you to continue using it for the foreseeable future.

meizu ubuntu settings

New features would be nice, but ensuring your data is secure is more important.

And, of course, the end doesn’t have to be final. Not just yet, anyway. Ubuntu Touch’s card system means that standard apps are unnecessary in many cases. Social networking, web browsing, and email will continue to work due to how they’re implemented.

It’s sad that there will be no more Ubuntu Touch, but it’s reassuring to see how the intelligence of the UI design can prolong its use.

Could Ubuntu Touch Survive?

Fortunately, if you don’t fancy taking any of the steps above, there could be light at the end of the tunnel. The UBports team have taken the mantle of continuing the Ubuntu Touch project. And they are seeking developers to help make the OS available on as many devices as possible.

UBports are accepting donations to start work on additional devices, and have funding almost complete for porting Ubuntu Touch to the Nexus 7 (LTE) and Nexus 10 tablets. Others are in progress.

This is an exciting possibility for Ubuntu Touch, but one that will require long-term commitment from the developers and donors alike.

With continued support, perhaps there is a small chance that the mobile version of Ubuntu will overcome its sudden cancelation by Canonical. A few features may change, Convergence may well be abandoned… time will tell. There remain plenty of reasons to try Ubuntu Touch 5 Reasons to Switch to Ubuntu Phone You're sick of Android and iOS - you want a new mobile experience, one that isn't tainted by Microsoft, or the failing BlackBerry. What you need is Ubuntu Phone! Read More .

Have you used Ubuntu Touch? Did you like it or is news that Canonical is abandoning its convergence strategy later than you expected? Tell us what you think in the comments.

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  1. Ulises
    February 7, 2018 at 1:13 am

    I'v been using UT a few months. UBports is making a great job and the community is growing up. Currently UT is completely usable, and there are applications for whatsapp, maps and other big android apps that everybody needs in their phone. Now you can take a look and taste it, so, do it and dont worry, there is a big community happy to help you

    August 27, 2017 at 2:18 am

    I want ubuntu touch must come back. The official must prove themselves that they are capable to compete with market

  3. Andy
    June 1, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    Have been using the BQ Aquarius E5 Ubuntu Edition for about 18 months. Despite the lack of functionality and apps, I really like the Ubuntu Touch OS... particularly the battery usage which when compared with the spectacularly bad performance of Android was a real boon.

    I am not a techie, have no previous experience with Ubuntu and prefer to have IT systems that "just work" needing minimal attention. Logically Android/iOS would would be the choice for me but I am increasingly conscious of what I am paying for this "free" software. The cherry on the cake which made me want to change away from Android came with security updates for my Android phone only being available if I validate my email address with my phone number. Something not only unnecessary but also rude... a bit like telling your date you will only drive her home if she shows you her knickers.

    It was a little disheartening to see that access to the Ubuntu app store required a Ubuntu One account registration as this led me to think that Canonical's business plan was not that dissimilar to the other OS's ... i.e. generate a maximum of mine-able data from users for later resale value but maybe this closure will allow a re-evaluation of the business model.

    I hope the Touch mantle can be continued and would propose a fundamental change to the business model if it is: Let's pay for this operating system with cash rather than clicks. I would be happy to spend the equivalent of buying a new phone each year in order to keep using a phone that 1. I was confident was not deliberately trying to get as much information about me as possible 2. allowed me to know and control what data I am giving away, 3. works well and 4. has the apps available... with regards to this last issue, the decision to make a platform where apps developed for Android needed to be modified before they would work on Touch was maybe part of the downfall. Is the value of a slicker OS really worth cutting out the massive network of resources already developed and available? Metcalf's law would suggest otherwise.

    I suspect I am not alone in my disquiet over the invasive nature of other [particularly Android] OS's and if I am right there has to be a decent size of unexploited market to target.

    • Christian Cawley
      June 8, 2017 at 8:45 am

      Some really interesting thoughts there Andy, thanks for sharing.

      I reckon the Android thing might have been a key aspect in the decision to pull Touch. At the same time, however, they were probably trying to push too far, too soon.

  4. James Allen
    May 1, 2017 at 11:05 pm

    I have Ubuntu Touch installed on a Nexus 7 2013 (WiFi) and I absolutely adore it! In fact, I sought permission from Canonical to install it on other Nexus 7's and sell them on eBay. They were happy to grant such permission so I made a sort of cottage industry out of purchasing the devices, installing Ubuntu Touch, & then reselling them.

    • Christian Cawley
      May 2, 2017 at 9:22 am

      What a great idea! Hope they continue to sell :)